It should be a matter for public outcry that the complete guide to beer and cider in Ireland is pocket-sized. Neither is the completeness a publisher's idle boast: this densely packed little book covers everything from the extinct micros like Balbriggan and DBC, to those just getting going, like Shelta and Bluestack. You can find out how long it takes to mash a batch of Murphy's and which came first: Stag or Ritz. And there's more...
The main body of the book describes every brewery and cider-maker in the country, north and south, arranged alphabetically. Iorwerth Griffiths gives us the history of each company, some details on the equipment and techniques they use, followed by tasting notes for every end product. Reading an entry offers a similar experience to going on a tour of the brewery itself, though if that's not enough, a text box tells the reader if the brewery is open to the public and how to arrange a visit.
Given the quality of so much Irish beer and cider, the tasting notes tend to be quite diplomatic in places, especially when it comes to the well-established macro-brewed products. The exception being Draught Guinness, described by Iorwerth with brutal honesty as "fulsome", which my dictionary tells me means "offensive or distasteful". I wouldn't go that far, personally speaking, but you have to admire his candour.
Book-ending the brewery listings are chapters on related topics, including a thorough run-through of the history of brewing in Ireland from ancient times (though unfortunately missing the Moore Group's recent experiments with the fulacht fiadh), charting the rise of the big three brewers and the fate of the regional brands they swallowed, and on through to the first wave of Irish craft brewing and the beginnings of the second. There's a pub guide, describing the scandalously few Irish pubs which stock good beer, and a calendar of the year's beer events nationwide.
For the visitor to Ireland, seeking the quality drink for which this country is so ill-deservedly well known, this book is quite simply indispensable. Nowhere else is so much practical beer information laid out so concisely. There's even a map of the breweries and pubs mentioned in the text.
As a general reference source, the book is also very useful, and more than once I've found myself looking up purported facts I heard in the pub to see if they are indeed according-to-Iorwerth true.
Finally, one can have great fun dipping in the book for interesting trivia, with something guaranteed to be of interest on every page. The Guinness two-part pour used to be from two different barrels? Well I never!
My one concern is how quickly the content will date. The naming of several breweries-yet-to-come should be reason enough to worry about the book's ephemerality, but we are all sadly aware of just how easily Irish craft brewers can blink out as well. As is, this book will stand as a mini-monument to a very exciting time in Irish brewing, and here's hoping the second edition will be just as complete but more of a coffee-table size.
The following is a press release from Liberties Press about the launch of Beer and Cider in Ireland: The Complete Guide.
The Pint Pulling Power of the Beer and Cider Book
A huge crowd gathered in The Porterhouse Bar in Dublin's Temple Bar for the Liberties Press launch of BEER AND CIDER IN IRELAND: The Complete Guide by Iowerth Griffiths. The book which is the first survey of all the Irish brews and ciders was formally launched by the Minister for Food and Horticulture, Trevor Sargent T.D
Amongst the many well-wishers and friends were also several of the micro-brewing and craft cider makers fraternity. David Llewellyn of Double L cider was seen in coversation with counterpart Wilhelm Rost who travelled up from the West Coast to attend.
Oliver Hughes director and Peter Mosley Master Brewer of the Porterhouse mingled with Gerry Forrest of the Árainn Mhór Brewing Company (all the way up from Donegal) and Seamus O'Hara of the Carlow Brewing Company. Actor Seamus Cashman and Eileen Sheridan of Tall Tales Theatre company sampled a few of the Porterhouse brews and joined Liam Kelly of Bord Bia in their admiration of the book's design and format by graphic designer Ros Murphy who was seen in conversation - or was in negotiation with editor and publisher Michael Freeman.
The Minister of State for Food Trevor Sargent mentioned how valuable a resource the brewing industry was to the economy with exports of €1.39 billion in 2006. He stressed that products using local craft and skill, and marketed with an understanding of what groups of consumers want, can really strengthen the local economy.
Author Iorwerth Griffiths in response encouraged one and all, producer and consumer alike, to push the variety and diversity of Irish brews and ciders before closing with a touching note of gratitude to his partner Alison and baby Annest who had arrived during the book's research and writing.
About the Author
Iorwerth Griffiths is originally from Wales, but is now based in Belfast. He has written for a number of drinks publications including Malt Advocate and Whisky Magazine. In the course of his research he has travelled around Ireland and met the people who run and work in the major Irish breweries and the growing number of microbreweries.
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